Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
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Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
 
The Jewish Soldier
By Alice Lucas
 
HARD by the walls of Plevna, not fifty yards away,
There lies a grave forsaken, scarce visible to-day;
Forsaken and neglected, uncared for and unknown,
No wreath is there to mark it, no monument of stone.
No grass, no flowers, grow there beneath those sullen skies;        5
’Tis there a sleeping hero, a Jewish soldier lies—
A Jewish soldier fallen in Plevna’s bloody fight,
When Russia, all victorious, put forth her conquering might.
 
The world is hushed to slumber and silence reigns around,
A silence all unbroken, no voice, no breath, no sound;        10
But when the chimes of midnight ring from the ancient tower,
Out of the east awakens a storm wind, strong in power.
Across the land it rushes, and, stronger and more strong,
It roars and howls and thunders in tumult wild and long,
Until the earth it cleaveth as with the trump of doom,        15
And, sword in hand, the soldier arises from his tomb.
 
Upon the wall he standeth, as in the dauntless past,
And from his heart sore-wounded, the blood flows free and fast.
His soldier’s blood flows freely, his heart is wounded deep,
And in a voice of thunder he calls the dead from sleep.        20
“Awake my warrior comrades, awake and judge aright;
Say, did I not stand bravely beside you in the fight?
Like you, did I not perish on Plevna’s battle plain
For Russia’s greater glory, for Russia’s greater gain?”
 
And as his words fall silent, there wakes to life once more        25
A mighty host, unnumbered as sand upon the shore;
A mighty armed multitude arises at his hest,
From far and near they gather, they come from east and west;
With marching and with clanging, with heavy, echoing tread,
Until they stand before him, an army of the dead;        30
And ev’ry soldier answers, with high uplifted hand,
And swears: “Yea, thou hast fallen for Czar and fatherland.”
 
And all again is silent, no voice, no breath, no sound,
The mighty host has vanished and stillness reigns around;
But still the Jewish soldier stands on the fortress wall,        35
And soon his words, resounding, like fiery missiles fall,
“O! Russia, for thy honor did I lay down my life!
O! Russia thou hast torn me from children and from wife!
Why dost thou now condemn them to exile and despair?
My curse, my heavy curses, to thee the winds shall bear.”        40
 
And scarcely has he uttered these curses, fraught with pain,
When swift the storm-wind carries him to his grave again.
And at the self-same hour, and at the self-same place,
The self-same actors nightly that gloomy scene retrace.
The soldier’s bitter curses grow deeper night by night,        45
They deepen and they gather until they rise in might,
Borne on the tempest’s pinions, far o’er the land they fly,
And on Gatschina’s palace forevermore they lie.
 
 
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